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Malaysia merger mania speaks to changing domestic and regional challenges

A suggested merger of two of Malaysia’s large banks and the sale of half of another’s international brokerage to a Chinese peer have shaken up the country’s financial services industry in the space of a week – what’s happening?

Things are stirring in Malaysia’s banking industry. So far in June, two of the biggest banks in the country have set about merger talks, and another has agreed to sell half of its international brokerage business to a mainland Chinese securities house.

On June 1, RHB Bank and AMMB Holdings, better known as AmBank, announced they were discussing a merger and had received approval from the central bank to move forward. They have signed an exclusivity agreement, which will expire on August 30, and are moving towards an all-share merger.

It’s an easy deal to understand, all about scale. Public Bank, CIMB and Maybank are all stronger; combining two of the banks on the rung below makes for a strong top-four bank.

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